Research partnership brings mindfulness/yoga practices to schools in Middle East

January 10, 2014, Pennsylvania State University
Palestinian children participating in the Transformative Life Skills (TLS) program. Findings indicate significant and meaningful effects on student school engagement, emotion regulation, mental health, and precursors to violence in high-risk, inner-city communities. Credit: Penn State

Palestinian educators, health professionals, social workers and refugee service providers recently received training in Transformative Life Skills (TLS)—a social-emotional learning program that aims to reduce students' stress and promote social-emotional health and physical wellness through mindfulness and yoga training—from a team of trainers and researchers from Penn State, the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and the Oakland-based nonprofit Niroga Institute.

Transformative Life Skills (TLS)—which involves training in yoga postures, breathing techniques and centering meditation—has been shown to help to focus, to regulate their emotions and to enhance their resilience in the face of severe stress and trauma.

For the past year, university researchers have partnered with yoga instructors from the Niroga Institute to support the implementation of TLS in Palestinian government and refugee camp schools across the West Bank.

"The results have been remarkable," said Maha El-Sheikh, a mental health professional with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). "Students, parents and teachers consistently report that TLS has improved the students' focus and concentration, enhanced classroom climate and improved interactions at home between children and their parents and families."

Positive feedback to educators and administrators at the UNRWA led to plans to substantially expand the TLS program in schools across the West Bank. With grant funding from the Give Back Yoga Foundation, a team of trainers and researchers recently conducted a series of TLS trainings for over 200 educators, , and refugee throughout the West Bank. According to reports, several participants already have begun to teach TLS in their schools. Team members plan to follow up with trainees throughout the year, while independent researchers assess program efficacy and evaluate program outcomes.

"Our experimental findings on TLS's effectiveness with at-risk populations in the United States have been very promising," said Jennifer Frank, research assistant professor in the Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State and co-developer of the TLS program. "We are finding significant and meaningful effects on measures of student engagement in school, emotion regulation, and precursors to violence among students in high-risk inner-city communities. We are excited by the opportunity to partner with the UNRWA to begin to explore whether these effects generalize to a more diverse international population of students and teachers."

Explore further: Participation in mindfulness-based program improves teacher well-being

Related Stories

Participation in mindfulness-based program improves teacher well-being

October 24, 2013
Teacher well-being, efficacy, burnout-related stress, time-related stress and mindfulness significantly improve when teachers participate in the CARE (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education) for Teachers program, ...

School climate key to preventing bullying

November 25, 2013
To effectively prevent bullying schools need to understand positive school climate, use reliable measures to evaluate school climate and use effective prevention and intervention programs to improve the climate, a recent ...

Meditation technique enhances children's mental health

March 27, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Teachers in schools across the globe are turning to a new philosophy to help improve the behaviour and well-being of students.

Note to teens: Just breathe

July 9, 2013
In May, the Los Angeles school board voted to ban suspensions of students for "willful defiance" and directed school officials to use alternative disciplinary practices. The decision was controversial, and the question remains: ...

Medical students taught meditation techniques to prevent burnout and improve care

October 30, 2013
Doctors commonly tell patients that stress can be harmful to their health. Yet when it comes to reducing their own stress levels, physicians don't always heed their own advice.

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.